PhD student scoops the Best African Student Paper prize

Juniours Marire, a PhD student in the Environmental and Natural Resources Research Focus Area (ENREFA) at Rhodes University, has won the Best African Student Paper prize at the International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade recently.

The International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade is a prestigious organisation that brings together some of the most revered fisheries economists and corporate executives as well as policymakers in the world.

“I am very much excited. It’s my Eureka moment. Honestly, yesterday I lost my breath. I can only say with King David, ‘The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage’ (Psalms 16.6 OKJV),” says Marire.

Marire almost gave up writing this paper, because he realised the deadline was two days away, yet he had not even started putting the paper together.

“Professor Gavin Fraser encouraged me to put up something since Professor Jen Snowball and he had already reviewed the work-in-progress chapter upon which the paper is based. I worked 48 hours non-stop and submitted the paper just a few moments before cut off time for submission.”

“It means what I acquired so far here at Rhodes is globally competitive stuff. To me this award is a key to greater learning opportunities ahead in my research career.”

“I am very much convinced that Rhodes has transformed my writing and research skills. Academic writing is evolutionary and a life-long learning process. The postgraduate research seminars have opened my eyes. I see research issues every time I get hold of a newspaper, a policy document or even read a court ruling.”

“My thesis is on “Institutional change, institutional isolation and the economic potential of recreational fisheries in South Africa: A case study of trout flyfishing.”

He says the paper examines one of the most contentious environmental policymaking issues in South Africa – the governance of alien and invasive species (especially aquatic fish species) within the historical and cultural context.

“To give it a proper characterisation, management of alien and invasive species has attained the status of a ’wicked policy problem’. In this paper, we show that there is a disjuncture in environmental policymaking on two accounts.

“First, the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) 1998, the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA) 1983 and the Constitution (section 24) are anthropocentric (people-centred) frameworks of environmental governance, but the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEM:BA) 2004 (before the 2013 Amendment) is ecocentric (biodiversity-centred). Apparently, this disjuncture is at the core of the controversies.

“Second, the implementation of the ecocentric NEM:BA is in some important respects divorced from the spirit of the Act, setting aside its ecocentricism. We further demonstrate that biological invasion scientists in some important respects have captured the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

“Given that this is a wicked problem, a purely science-centred policymaking approach is deterministic and linear and, to use Degnbol et al.’s (2006) words, it amounts to “painting the floor with a harmer”. It can seldom resolve the problem. We do observe a planning curse in the whole process that has lasted for almost a decade (2004-2014) and is still on.

“We then examine the legislative history of NEM:BA to substantiate our claim that the controversies are less on account of the trout sector being environmentally greedy as alleged by biological invasion scientists than it is on account of deficits in democratic environmental policymaking,” he says.

He thanked his co-supervisors Professor Jen Snowball and Professor Gavin Fraser. “They have been very instrumental in shaping my work. They have each played two dialectical roles – a co-author and a devil’s advocate,” he added.

His paper has also been accepted for the conference which will be held in Australia in July 2014.

By Zamuxolo Matiwana

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Source:  Communications and Marketing

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